- Myron Medcalf, ESPN Staff Writer
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Ron Hunter led Georgia State to a 22-win season and a sixth-place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association during his first year with the Panthers in 2011-12.
He’s spent the offseason addressing his program’s current predicament with its conference affiliation. The CAA has blocked Georgia State -- preparing for a move to the Sun Belt -- from participating in this season’s conference tournament, prompting Hunter to identify his program as “independent.”
"I told them we're an independent," Hunter told ESPN.com’s Andy Katz. "That's what we are now. It's no fault of theirs. We made a move for football. And we're paying the consequences. The bad part is that this is the only league in the country where this is happening. From this point forward, we're an independent basketball team."
But Hunter’s summer has also included preparations for a trip to South Africa, where he will deliver shoes to needy children. Hunter’s highly publicized connection to Samaritan’s Feet -- an organization that’s donated more than 1 million shoes to impoverished children in 50 different countries -- has led to multiple international humanitarian treks. He coaches one game barefoot every year -- an effort that’s been embraced and emulated by other coaches around the country -- to raise awareness and generate support.
Now, his program will participate in the experience.
Next week, Hunter will take Georgia State’s staff and players with him to South Africa. They’re scheduled to leave July 31 and return Aug. 9.
I talked to Hunter earlier this summer, and he was clearly amped for the South Africa trip. He told me that his ultimate goal was to donate 250,000 shoes to children.
"I feel very blessed and humbled to be working with an organization like Samaritan's Feet," commented Hunter. "To be able to bring my staff and equally important my players will make it a unique trip for all involved.
"Going to South Africa will allow us to distribute a great number of shoes in a part of the world where foot disease runs rampant. Hopefully we can do our part to bring hope to those who are not nearly as fortunate as we are.
"To be able to wash a child's feet, give them a pair of socks and put on their first pair of shoes gives me a feeling inside that I cannot describe. The smile on the face of each child we help is priceless and is worth more to me than anything I could ever accomplish on the basketball court."
Hunter, like the rest of his coaching colleagues, deals with the ongoing demands of the college basketball offseason. But he hasn’t wavered in his commitment to Samaritan’s Feet, an organization he began to support in 2008.